Racism on the train (part IV)

Posted: April 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Israel Railways, the national train company, announced last week that it will no longer demand Army experience for the post of railways lookouts.

We have been following this story for about a month, ever since the train company tried to fire almost all of its Arab lookouts, on the pretext that it prefers to hire Army veterans for the job, i.e. Jews. The issue has reached Israel’s Labor Court, and Israel Railways’ lawyers have finally understood that they are going to lose this one.

Victory? Not so fast.

If you read the Hebrew version of the new requirements for the job of a lookout, you’ll discover amongst them “at least a full year experience working in day and night shifts” and “working in a hierarchic organization in a post defined by specific internal rules”. Now, guess what kind of job might give you such an experience?

Coincidently, these new demands are similar to the arguments the train company has presented the Labor Court in its failed attempt the explain why did it ask to hire only veterans to a job that has nothing to do with the army.

As I wrote before, this could be a case study for the way discrimination works in Israel. What needs to be seen is how many of the Arabs working as lookouts will meet this new demand, and how many will be fired (this is a very low paid job, so one can assume most of the workers had no previous experience). In other words, the new definition leaves Israel Railways the option to discriminate, but this time it will be much harder to challenge it in court.

It is important to note that the train company is owned by the government, and that the company’s chairman is a Kadima man. The great effort on the company’s behalf to at least keep the option of firing its Arab workers is further proof to my claim that discrimination and latent racism is not just part of the extreme-right politics in Israel, but rather a de-facto national policy.


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